By way of an update about the Revolutions Anthology I am editing (along with my fellow members of the Manchester Speculative Fiction Group), I thought I would share some insights about how to submit a story to an editor.
The reason I’m doing this is that I have been surprised by how many people don’t know the best way to do this. So here are some tips about sending out your short stories if you’re a fledgling writer (or even if you’re not).
Submissions are closed now for the anthology, and myself and my fellow editors are busy reading through a small mountain of stories. But I have noticed some simple errors that will stop you from being published.
Except for a word limit of 6,000 words we only had two rules for the Revolutions Anthology. One, stories had to be speculative (science-fiction, fantasy, horror or slipstream). Two, they had to be connected in some way to Greater Manchester, England.
That was it.
First of all, here’s what NOT to do.
– Send things the publisher doesn’t publish. We would love to have published a novel, but that wasn’t what we set out to do. We wanted short stories. Period. So sending us anything else is just a waste of your (and our) time.
– Send us a long list of stories we might like and ask us to pick one. Sorry, but it’s up to you to decide which story to submit.
Here’s what you should really do:
– Be professional.
The general public often see writing as a strange profession, part shaman, part celebrity. You sit down and magically produce a novel or short story which a publisher then falls in love with. And lo, a legend is born!
Alas, not so.
Writers are just like anyone else. They have to work.
If you want to submit a short story you have already written to a publisher (for instance, an anthology or magazine editor) check first to see if it’s the kind of thing they would want. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!
This is so important, I’ll say it again: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!
Editors are busy. They set guidelines because it helps them save time. We all want to save time. So save yours and theirs by FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES (there, I said it again).
So what should you send?
1) Your story, either attached or emebedded in the e-mail as per their GUIDELINES (!).
2) A short covering letter (short being the operative word). This should tell them the following:
– Who you are
– What you are submitting (How long it is. What genre it is. It’s title)
– If necessary, a short one paragraph biography detailing any relevant publishing credits you have, or any relevant experience you have. Note the word RELEVANT. If you’re a palaeontologist and your story is about fossils, that MIGHT be relevant. If you’re a divorce lawyer and your story is about a wertiger, it probably is going to be less relevant. Use common sense.
DO try to address the letter to the editor by name. It’s not always possible. Some are shy about putting their names on their wesbites. But “Dear Bob” always sounds better than “Dear editors” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.
DO NOT spell the editors names incorrectly.
DO NOT assume that anyone who uses their initials only is a man (or woman). A good tip for this is to address them by their initials, e.g. “Dear T.J.”
A good letter should also include a good-bye. Something simple like “I hope you enjoy the story and look forward to hearing from you in due course, Yours sincerely, Eric.” is enough.
After that, send your shiny e-mail off into the ether and wait. Wait again. Then wait a bit more.
DO NOT pester the editor with e-mails every few weeks asking if they’ve read your story. I myself only ever chase up a submission if it’s something I’ve personally been asked to submit. It’s a sad fact that some publishers never reply to you. Take that as a rejection.
Once you’ve done all that, either:
a) REJOICE! Your submission was successful. You are now a published author!
b) REPEAT the above.
Nobody ever said being a writer would be easy! Writing requires persistence, patience, and above all, a thick skin. Not everyone will appreciate your genius right off the bat. Don’t let that deter you. Get back in their champ and keep swinging!
Following the above will not guarantee that your story will ever see the light of day. However, it will guarantee that the editor does not immediately burn your submission (hopefully). Doing these simple things will ensure that you come across as a professional rather than an amateur. And, sometimes, that makes all the difference.